BOSTON -- Curt Schilling stepped gingerly behind the mound in the fifth inning and bent at the knees, and Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek walked out slowly, knowing that Schilling was hurting, knowing that he needed a little time to forget about what he feels in his right ankle.
Schilling rose up again, stepped back onto the rubber and went back to work, occasionally stumbling in his follow-through when the ankle failed to support him, but always limping back to the mound and throwing again and again for six innings, in Boston's 6-2 victory over St. Louis in Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday night. The Red Sox lead two-games-to-none in the best-of-seven series, and with their batters completely overmatching the mediocre stuff of St. Louis' staff, Boston is threatening to finish off the Cardinals as the series shifts to the Midwest for Games 3, 4 and 5.
"We're disappointed we didn't get a game or more here," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
In the first two games, the All-Star hitters who bat third, fourth and fifth for St. Louis -- Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds -- are 4-for-23 with no homers and one RBI. The Red Sox have generated 17 runs with the steady drum beat of tough at-bats: The St. Louis pitchers have thrown 354 pitches so far in this series, and incredibly, the Red Sox have swung and missed only 18 times, with 60 foul balls.
Just 12 days ago there was doubt whether Schilling would pitch again this year, because his ankle was hurting and he had to limp off the field at Yankee Stadium in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series. But he has become more at ease pitching with the problem, as he and the members of the team's medical staff have learned more about the treatment -- the stitching that is done in his ankle, the right spot for the injection of the pain. It's all become part of his postseason ritual this fall: Somewhere between warming up in the bullpen and taking the mound with a fastball of 93-94 mph, he sees the doc.
And whenever he got in trouble, or he seemed in discomfort, Schilling just slowed down in his actions. "I think he's getting a little better understanding of his body, competing under the circumstances," Boston manager Terry Francona said.
The Cardinals had a runner in scoring position in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings against Schilling, and they went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They scored off Schilling in the fourth, but only when Bill Mueller bobbled a grounder with two outs and Pujols at third. Schilling struck out four and allowed only four hits.
Schilling said afterward that he tweaked his hip flexor in the third inning -- "things keep piling on," he said -- and he doesn't want to think about whether he'll pitch again in this series.
"You could see he was battling with his ankle," Varitek said.
Said La Russa, "We did enough offensively to get more than two runs ... Schilling made some really quality pitches when we had a chance for more."
Mueller's error was one of the three he made in the game, which tied a single-game World Series record, and one of four made by the Red Sox; Boston had eight errors in the first two games of the series. But the Red Sox are easily overcoming those mistakes with their offense.
Like Woody Williams, the Cardinals' Game 1 starter, Matt Morris does not overpower hitters, his fastball usually reaching 89-91 mph; he will generate more strikeouts when he has a great feel for his sharp, down-breaking curveball. But as in Game 1, the conditions were not conducive for curveballs, with the wind-chill factor in the 30s and the pitchers blowing on their fists to maintain feeling in their fingers.
So Morris went to the mound with his average fastball and inconsistent curveball, pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, and like Williams, he struggled to finish off Boston's hitters. He retired the first two batters in the first inning, got two quick strikes on Manny Ramirez and then tried to goad Ramirez into swinging at breaking balls.
But Ramirez and most of the other Boston hitters are adept at correctly reading curves and sliders and cutters, swinging at those that are strikes and ignoring those that are balls. And as Morris kept dangling pitches off the corner, Ramirez would not take the bait, once, twice, a third time; he walked.
The count went 2-2 to the next hitter, David Ortiz, and Morris tried a curve, some kind of cut fastball; Ortiz fouled off both pitches, and another, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Ortiz drew a walk.
Morris had another chance to close out the inning, pitching to Varitek, and again, he got ahead in the count 0-and-2. But Varitek clubbed a ball high over the head of the center fielder Jim Edmonds, the ball hitting against the bullpen side wall in the center field triangle, for a two-run triple. The first time through the Boston lineup, the Red Sox were 2-for-4 with two walks in at-bats with two strikes. "If you can get the two-out hit, and stop the two-out hit, you can win a lot of games with that formula," La Russa said.
Mark Bellhorn slammed a two-run double in the fourth inning, and in the sixth -- the inning after Morris was relieved -- Orlando Cabrera banged a ball off the Green Monster to drive home two runs, giving Boston a 6-1 lead.
The Cardinals have thrown two of their three best starters at the Red Sox and have failed to make a dent in their offense; all of the St. Louis starters fit the same mold; they lack dominant stuff.
Now St. Louis goes home to Busch Stadium facing a must-win situation in Game 3 -- because, as everybody knows, there is only one team in the history of Major League Baseball which came back to win after losing the first three games in the postseason series. These Red Sox know that, for sure.